Friday, December 28, 2012

Napa Rose - dinner - December 27, 2012

Had dinner with a friend at our normal seats at the Chef's counter.  We hadn't seen Chef Sutton in a while since he's been busy with the new Carthay Circle restaurant at Disney California Adventure.  (I noticed that the chef's jacket he was wearing this night was his jacket from Carthay Circle, not his old jacket from Napa Rose.)

I sat down while my friend went to the ladies' room, and I was greeted by a few of the staff that we've gotten to know, as well as Chef.  Chef offered us a glass of champagne to start off the evening, which I accepted, and he told the server to add a touch of Grand Marnier to the glasses as well.  Merry Christmas!

We both decided to let Chef choose our dishes for us, though my friend requested venison in her meal, and I requested a taste of the goose in mine.

I didn't get a picture of the amuse bouche, but it was chickpeas mashed and then deep fried, with an apple salsa on top.  Tasty, even for my friend who doesn't like chickpeas.

For my first course, Chef gave me the salmon from the evening's vintner's menu.  He had mentioned the dish as we were initially talking, and I expressed an interest in it.  The glaze gave the salmon a nice crunchy exterior texture, and tempura asparagus is always welcome.  Chef said he doesn't normally include peanut products, but he just felt like it this time, and we noticed another dish that had peanut sauce as an ingredient as well.

soy glazed Skuna Bay salmon with Vietnamese peanut crab salad, tempura fried white asparagus and tangerine vinaigrette

My friend's first course was the sauteed sustainable fish, which was sea bass on this night.  The "couscous" (which Chef said a few times because he said it was a fun word to say) isn't really couscous - the cauliflower is grated so that they come out like pearls and resemble couscous.

sauteed sustainable fish of the day (sea bass), roasted golden cauliflower couscous and cranberry-walnut pesto

Chef had mentioned a dish he'd made that wasn't on the menu, and after he described it, I expressed a definite interest in it.  My friend wasn't quite as enthusiastic but she was game.  Chef said he'd give us the dish to share.

The mussels were steamed in a delicious broth (some of which was at the bottom of the cup), and on top was a calamari stuffed with chorizo that included serrano ham. There's a cilantro sauce in the middle, and a piece of toasted bread on the right that had olives and such on it.  It was a delicious dish.

chorizo-stuffed calamari on top of steamed mussels


My next course was the goose I requested.  The normal entree portion comes with a few slices of goose on the side in addition to the terrine.  The taste I got was enough to satisfy my annual goose craving.

signature holiday goose with braised winter cabbage, apple chestnut puree and merlot essence

For my friend's next course, Chef gave her the second course from the evening's vintner's menu.  She had mentioned that she was feeling adventurous and ready to try whatever Chef might toss her way, even if it was something like sweetbreads, which she doesn't normally like.  Taking her on her word, Chef indeed gave her this course.  She blanched a little when Chef used the word "offals" (I might have giggled at her a bit at that point.), but she had both the sweetbreads and tongue and liked them.

braised veal sweetbreads with oregon truffle chianti sauce and crispy corn meal fried beef's tongue

We were already pretty full by this point, and my friend didn't really believe me when I said that we hadn't even gotten the entree yet, until our server put down the knife and fork for each of us.

My entree was from the vintner's menu, which was New York steak.  Chef mentioned the housemade steak sauce, which included tamarind and "a million other spices".  The dish was very tasty, but I was too full to finish it.  I had one slice of the meat and the sides and took the rest home.

28 day aged prime beef New York steak with butter poached fingerling potatoes and wine country steak sauce

For her entree, my friend received her requested venison.  She was hesitant to eat it because she was already full and wanted to save room for dessert, but I told her she had to at least try it since she'd asked for it.  She had a few bites and seemed to like it.

roasted red deer venison with chipotle roasted sweet potatoes and orange rosemary chimichuri

I didn't take pictures of dessert, but I had the "best hot chocolate", which is a little thick but still yummy, accompanied by some tasty donuts.  My friend had the peppermint chocolate sorbet (which she loved) and a couple of the donuts on the side.

As usual, it was a lovely dinner all around.  The staff was busy, but not so much that they weren't available to answer our questions on the various other dishes we saw being prepared as well as other random questions.  Over the course of dinner, we were able to chat with Chef, a few of the other chefs, and a few of the runners as well.

Here's the current menu.  The vintner's table is new every week starting on Friday, so this would have been the last night of the current vintner's menu.

starters, starters to share and salads & soups

main courses, sides and vintner's table

Monday, November 12, 2012

first Christmas in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure

When Cars Land opened in Disney California Adventure this past June, many of us were also looking forward to seeing how it might be decorated for various holidays.  There were no special decorations for Halloween, but they really went all out for Christmas.  It actually reminds me a lot of all the little details that used to decorate Toontown in Disneyland.  While Toontown is still decorated for Christmas, it doesn't have all the subtleties that it used to, but the details are in full force in Cars Land.

First, though, we did notice some holiday merchandise specifically themed to Disney California Adventure, and not just the entire Disneyland Resort, as is usually the case.

This design with the characters on and around a red trolley and the Carthay Circle building in the background adorns a nice hooded sweatshirt.

This design more prominently features the Carthay Circle building and can be found on a t-shirt, a mug, a throw blanket and many other items.

The display windows of Elias and Company are decorated with various holiday vignettes.  One window has a very long wish list to Santa, which we had fun reading, but we had trouble making out one item.  On the fold in the middle, a walrus is listed, but what's the next item listed after that?  It looks like "haring" to us, but we figure that can't be it because it doesn't mean anything.

On a tangent, a CD was recently released of some of the music heard in the Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge.  It's available in the "men's department" of Elias and Company.

After looking at the Christmas decorations on Buena Vista Street, we headed over to Cars Land to take a look.  The postcard at the front of the land had been changed to reflect the coming season.

Christmas comes to Radiator Springs.

There are lots of details in each part of the sign - the "C" has Santa and his reindeer!

Next to the sign is a Snowman (Snowcar?).  It's a great photo op, and there was a Photopass photographer at the location.

Looking down the main street of Radiator Springs.

A Santa hat and decorations adorn Mater at his Junkyard Jamboree ride.

This isn't Christmas related (at least I don't think it is), and I don't know how long this has been up, but Sarge's is adorned with an array of patriotic colors and lights.  The sparkles at the top are actually bursting fireworks.

I love these decorations over the middle of the street, which are an echo of the Mickey wreaths which hang over Main Street in Disneyland.  The "wreath" is made of a tire and a bow.

The Cozy Cone Motel has stars made of cone shapes.

And of course, the Cozy Cone has a Christmas tree made of stacked cones!

And if you look on the other side, you can see that the Christmas tree gets electricity from jumper cables being attached to a battery.  :)

Each of the Cozy Cones is decorated as well.

The office of the Cozy Cone Motel has a Christmas tree as well.

But the best gem is that inside the office, there's also a gingerbread re-creation of the Cozy Cone Motel!

A closer view of the amazing gingerbread Cozy Cone Motel.

A different angle of the gingerbread Cozy Cone Motel.  It's really incredible.

The Christmas tree outside the Curios store.

City Hall in Radiator Springs is nicely decorated as well.

Of course, there's a beautiful Christmas tree.

The statue of Stanley in front now includes a Santa hat and a bag of toys.

A different look at Santa Stanley.

Christmas in Radiator Springs isn't just visible in the decorations on the buildings outside.  When we ventured into the Curios store, we were thrilled to find that Santa had brought many merchandise items related to Radiator Springs.  Deservedly or not, we are completely taking credit for that!  On opening day of Cars Land, we were surveyed extensively by some cast members, and one of the things we adamantly told them was that as much as we liked the Cars Land merchandise, we were disappointed that there was no Radiator Springs merchandise.  We were visitors to the town of Radiator Springs, and we wanted a souvenir of our visit to this little town, but none existed.  And now, it does!

A selection of mugs are available, showing landmarks of Radiator Springs.

Toothpick holders (or whatever these are) are available as well.

How about postcards to remember your visit?  There are four different sets, and some of the postcards can be purchased individually as well.

The design of the front sign is available on a t-shirt and a mug.  We looked for a postcard with the design but didn't find one - can we hope that's still forthcoming?

This kid's shirt is absolutely adorable.

Love, love, LOVE this ladies' cut t-shirt, which I bought, especially since I'm a fan of the restaurant.  Note, though, that the color didn't come out correctly in the picture - the shirt is actually a pale yellow.  While I love having the shirt in a ladies' cut, it's too bad it's not in a regular cut t-shirt as well, because the husband would have bought one too.

Again, love the ladies' cut.  Yep, I bought this too.  Yep, make this in a regular cut too so everyone can wear it!

A few of the other establishments in Radiator Springs are represented in merchandise as well, including t-shirts and signs.

Since we've talked about a wish list, I also thought it would be so cute to have a little plush of the baby tractor pulling the carts in Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.  There's a die cast of it, but die cast is a little hard to cuddle.  :)

If you get a chance to come out and see Cars Land (and Buena Vista Street) for the holiday season, I highly recommend it.  The pictures above are only a fraction of the amazing decorations and details that you'll see.

Race interrupted

Disney California Adventure opened a new land this past June which recreates the town of Radiator Springs from the Disney/Pixar film "Cars".  The new land has three attractions, and the big E-ticket is called Radiator Springs Racers, in which guests sit in a car that initially takes a leisurely drive through the mountains, and then you embark on a race with another car full of guests.  It's really an amazing ride.

A couple of weeks ago, we went on the ride with a group of friends, enough that we filled up two successive cars.  We were in the second car, and we had just gotten to the thresher machine just on the outskirts of Radiator Springs when our car stalled.  Hmmm, ok, a few months previously, we'd been delayed at the very same spot, but after a few minutes, we'd started up again, so we waited to see if that happened again.  When our "engine" turned off and the lights went on around us, we knew there was going to be no further ride.  The ride probably needed to be re-set, but that meant everyone currently on the ride would need to be taken off.  We waited a while, and eventually, cast members came by and were letting our friends out from the car in front of us.  They then came by and released our seat belts so we could get out, and we proceeded to the next car, as each subsequent car was unloaded.  We were then taken to a side exit door, where we were offered passes for a visit later in the day.  As frequent visitors to the parks, we're always interested in seeing what an attraction looks like when it's not operational.

The rest of our group is in the car in front of us as the ride stopped.

Our car was stopped right in front of the thresher.

More guests are walking the path as each successive car is evacuated.

The next car to be evacuated.

A good look at what the inside building looks like with the lights on.

Guests behind us are waiting to leave the building.

We didn't get to walk through much of the ride, but it was still pretty interesting, even if we ultimately didn't end up going on the ride that day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Disney California Adventure - retiring of the colors

We'd had the opportunity to attend the annual passholder preview event of the new Cars Land and Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure on Saturday, June 9, 2012.  After we'd spent hours having a blast at Cars Land, we spent some time meandering through Buena Vista Street as well, admiring all the work that's been done there, and while the Red Car Trolley wasn't running that day, there was a trolley parked near the entrance to the park, so we went in and sat and chatted with the conductor cast member in the trolley for a while.  While we were inside, I was looking around at Buena Vista Street, and as I looked toward the front of the park, I noticed there was a new flagpole there.  I mentioned it to the cast member and asked if that meant there was going to be flag retreat in this park as well, and I jokingly wondered how Ernie, a Security cast member who is almost always working the flag retreat at Disneyland, was going to do two flag retreats a day.  The cast member mentioned that Ernie was indeed involved in training other cast members to do the DCA flag retreat, so we were pleased to hear that.

When Cars Land and Buena Vista Street officially opened on June 15, we were pretty busy that day, and we didn't get a chance to check on flag retreat at all.  I found out from a friend that the retiring of the colors happens about a quarter to 5pm with no ceremony, so I went back to the park on June 16 to see what it involved.

I got to the main entrance at about 4:30pm and just hung out by the trolley stop.

The flagpole inside the entrance of Disney California Adventure.

At about 4:50pm, I noticed some cast members come out and they were sort of directing traffic around the flagpole, but nothing else was happening yet.  I had walked around the flagpole when I'd first arrived and noticed that it's not like the flagpole at Disneyland in that it doesn't have a rope hanging from the outside that lowers and raises the flags.  The flags are connected to a short rope, the rest of which presumable hangs inside the flagpole.  At the bottom part of the rope is a small chain that loops around the flagpole, which weights the flags down a bit and keeps them close to the flagpole.  On the side of the pole facing Oswald's, there's a small door in the pole just above the base that requires a key to unlock.

Around 5pm, I noticed another cast member come out, and he went to the flag pole and unlocked the little door.

Cast member on base unlocking door in pole.

After he was done, you could see that there was a little crank protruding out of the door.  I don't know if he put the little crank on there or if he just pulled it out from inside the door.  Once he was done, the crank was left there but the cast members weren't clearing the area anymore.

People are allowed to sit on the flagpole base as the crank sticks out the little door.

After a little while, I could tell that one cast member was talking to another cast member to explain what was going to happen next.  I looked in the direction he pointed, and an honor guard was on their way, adjacent to the Five and Dime.  The cast members near the flagpole stopped the pedestrian traffic long enough for the honor guard to march across the street to the flagpole.

The honor guard marching toward the flagpole.

The honor guard at the flagpole.

One of the guards went to the flagpole and prepared to operate the crank to lower the flags.

Guard at flagpole, ready to lower the flags.

The other two guards saluted while the third guard operated the crank that lowered the flags.  The cast members were standing at a perimeter to the flagpole to prevent anyone from walking through that area, but otherwise, pedestrian traffic was allowed on the street.  Keep in mind that there had been no announcement, and there was no music other than the normal music being played on Buena Vista Street.  There was absolutely no attention being drawn to this event other than the presence of the various cast members and guards.  Some guests did sit/stand around watching the ceremony.

After both flags were lowered and disconnected, the honor guard folded both flags.

Once they were done folding the flags, the honor guard prepared to leave, and once again, the cast members stopped pedestrian traffic on the street long enough for the guards to march off with the folded flags.

The crux of the main ceremony was the same as at Disneyland (obviously without a band, without the Dapper Dans and without the military salutes), though admittedly, the details of the marching and stopping and repositioning of the guards and the folding of the flags wasn't as crisp as I was used to seeing at Disneyland.

I don't know if Ernie is actually working on training guards to do a flag retreat ceremony at DCA.  I hope it is true.  If it's not currently true, I hope it soon becomes true.  There are some logistic problems that need to be solved because the flagpole isn't as contained as it is at Disneyland, but I'm sure Ernie would have no problem finding suitable solutions.  It may be that everyone was so concerned about getting Cars Land and Buena Vista Street up and running for the preview days and for official opening day that they didn't think about the flags having to be lowered, so they haven't worked out the details of a proper flag retreat ceremony for DCA yet.  I hope that sometime soon, guests will be able to observe flag retreat ceremonies at both Disneyland and DCA.